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Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Big Automakers Need Nokia's Maps for their Driverless Car Future
As reported by Popular Science: The future landscape of the autonomous car industry is beginning to take shape with the impending acquisition of Nokia’s mapping software, Here, which already has a focus on “humanised driving.”
It's also worth noting that Audi has already been developing its own autonomous, or "piloted," cars. In April, an Audi A7 named "Jack" drove a 550-mile span from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas, although the underlying map program wasn't made clear. Another company, Cruise Automation, announced a product that adds driverless capabilities to specifically the Audi A4 or S4, that works on certain California highways.
A robust map data set is crucial to operating an autonomous car--if the car doesn’t know where to go, it can’t go anywhere. Nokia identified this early on, and has already used its LIDAR-equipped cars to create high-definition maps of certain roads and highways, accurate down to 20 centimeters, according to the company. Their LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) system features 32 lasers mounted on a car, concurrently collecting 700,000 data points per second at distances of more than 200 feet. (Think the Terminator of remote mapping cars.)
Here's a look at what Here LIDAR data looks like, when put to use in a city like Philadelphia:
Nokia's Here has already used this to maps streets in Silicon Valley, Michigan, France, and Germany, which they announced would be made public yesterday. They’ve also announced a partnership with Mcity, the University of Michigan’s 32-acre faux city solely populated by autonomous vehicles.
The ridesharing company has a wealth of data from their drivers, but given that the whole point of the app is a decentralized marketplace for rides, don't expect your Uber driver to sport a LIDAR array anytime soon. Apple, on the other hand, also has mapping vans out on the road. All of which is to say: for companies looking to provide cars in our increasingly autonomous future, maps are a necessary cost of doing business — either making maps of their own from the ground up, or buying them.